A graduate of The American School of Protocol who lives on the island of Bermuda sent us a link to a very interesting article. It is a tongue-in-cheek piece on using a person’s first name. Not just any person, but someone you have never met. (We won’t leave you in the dark – you can read the article here.)
The long-standing etiquette rule regarding this issue is to call someone by their title and surname unless you are given permission to call them by their first name or a nickname. The American School of Protocol chooses to adhere to this rule ... most of the time.
Like the vast majority of Americans, we tend to create a “friendly” atmosphere in our classes. If you have attended one, you may have noticed you were greeted by your first name. You may also have noticed your biweekly emails greet you by your first name.
However, if we were meeting for the first time in a business situation, perhaps with a proposal for our services, you can bet a title and surname would be used.
Business runs better on formality. You remain more focused to deal with the issue at hand. A serious, productive environment is created. Deals are made and contracts are signed. Some companies recognize this, and though they may address each other informally on a day to day basis they use formal names during important meetings so that a certain level of respect is maintained.
Ric Chapman, who wrote the aforementioned article, says that “we are all made equally and to single someone out for a Mr. or Mrs. handle, seems to be putting them on a pedestal higher than others.”
I see his point. For instance, there are places of business where everyone is called by a first name except for Mr. Big, the executive. Did he not attend the employee meeting when everyone else gave their coworkers permission to use their first names?
On the other hand, why not make everyone you do business with feel important by addressing them formally? I can’t help but think of the older woman who was at her doctor’s office. The doctor entered the examination room and said, “Good morning, Betty.”
She replied, “Good morning, John.”
Seeing the look of confusion on his face, she then told him in varying words that if he expected to be addressed as Dr. Morgan he should exhibit more regard for his title by
using one in return.
It all comes back to respect. Each of us has varying personal boundaries and may not be comfortable with the familiar use of our first name by a stranger. Showing respect by not using a first name, more often than not, earns the right to use it.
What do you think about the formal use of names? Share your opinion here. Share your opinion here